Cox has committed to adding wireless service from Sprint to its bundled packages starting in 2009. Beyond that, the company plans to build its own 4G LTE-based wireless network with its share of the wireless spectrum in the near future.
CNet is reporting that the cable company will partner with Sprint in the beginning to offer its wireless service in a bundle with its cable, home phone, and internet services. In its slow process to build its own wireless network, the company plans to go from reselling Sprint service to building its own 3G network, and then moving on to an LTE-based 4G network when the technology evolves.
What’s interesting about the move to partner with Sprint is that it seems to bypass the recent attempt to form “Pivot” with other cable companies. “Pivot” was a joint venture between Cox, Time Warner, Comcast and Advance/Newhouse communications to partner with Sprint/Nextel to provide a wireless service that all the cable companies could then resell and bundle with its cable, phone, and internet offerings. That was three years ago with almost no mention of it since. Now it seems Cox is re-interested in the idea and finally capitalizing on it.
The difference is Comcast and Time Warner are now backing the venture between Clearwire and Sprint that aims to bring WiMax technology to market. While WiMax is probably the smarter technology to bundle with cable services, Sprint’s wireless network is available now, and Cox doesn’t seem to want to wait any longer to jump into the wireless industry.
Cox’s partnership with Sprint is just to pass time before it can build-out its own wireless network using its share of the wireless spectrum it purchased recently. With its part of the spectrum, Cox plans to use its existing voice switching technology and fiber within its network footprint to build the new wireless network. “As we look to the future of wireless, it’s about much more than just voice services,” said Stephen Bye, vice president of wireless for Cox. “Wireless is undergoing a new wave of adoption around data and video. We see a tremendous opportunity to take our existing services outside the home and make them mobile.”
All in all, while an unconventional move, I think it’s smart. Cable companies are facing ever-increasing competition on all fronts, and by bundling wireless service with all other cable-based services such as TV and internet, they might win back consumers that would have otherwise went elsewhere. Not to mention the undeniable benefits for Sprint, which is struggling for any and all increase in subscribership.